York thespians in the spotlight at SummerWorks

The creative work of York’s theatre folk will be showcased in professional productions that are part of Toronto’s annual SummerWorks Theatre Festival Aug. 5 to 15.

This year marks the 20th instalment of Canada’s largest juried theatre festival. SummerWorks features more than 40 plays, off-site performances, concerts, workshops, youth activities, walking tours and a host of free events and happenings.

Theatrical highlights include Canadian plays: The Emotionalists by York grad Sky Gilbert (BA ’77), the founding artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre; I Was Barbie by Nina Arsenault (BFA Spec. Hons. ’96, MFA ’00); and Iphigenia at Aulis, directed by Alan Dilworth (BEd ’96, MFA ’09).

Right: Sky Gilbert

The Emotionalists offers a look at the famous writer, fierce lobbyist and founder of the objectivist movement, Ayn Rand. The play, which begins its run Aug. 6 at 7:30pm at the Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St. W., opens amid Rand’s love affair with psychologist Nathaniel Branden. The affair reveals cracks in Rand’s austere veneer and her inherent hypocrisy as all those around her struggle to find where reason ends and honest emotion begins. York theatre Professor Eric Armstrong worked behind the scenes coaching the play’s lead Soo Garay on her Russian accent for Ayn Rand.

In I Was Barbie, Arsenault, who is arguably Canada’s most celebrated transsexual as well as being the founding artistic director of VenusMACHINE and an actor on stage (Ladylike and The Silicone Diaries) and television (“Train 48”, “Locker Room”, “The Vent”), depicts the true story of how she represented Mattel’s beloved plastic doll at its official 50th birthday party and the opening night of L’Oreal Fashion Week. The production, directed by Brendan Healy, is dramaturged by Arsenault’s mentor from her student days at York, theatre Professor Judith Rudakoff. The play opens this afternoon at 4pm at Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

What is the value of one person’s life in a time of war? Euripides’s Iphigenia at Aulis, directed by Dilworth, is an electrifying Greek drama that examines the relationship of personal sacrifice to prevailing power structures. The play revolves around Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek coalition before and during the Trojan War, and his decision to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to appease the goddess Artemis and allow his troops to set sail to preserve their honour in battle against Troy.  

Left: Alan Dilworth

Dilworth received the 2005-2006 Urjo Kareda Residency Grant for an Emerging Theatre Artist at Tarragon Theatre. While at York, he was awarded the W. Lawrence Heisey Graduate Award for creative and academic excellence. Iphigenia at Aulis opens Aug. 6 at 5pm at the Factory Theatre Mainspace, 125 Bathurst St.

Also involved in SummerWorks is Adriano Sobretodo Jr. (MFA ’09). Sobretodo will be acting and singing in the musical Prison Dancer, part of the SummerWorks’ Musical Works in Concert. In Prison Dancer, the warden of Manila’s maximum security prison is inspired by the flamboyant Lola to bring group dancing to the prisoners as a means of rehabilitation. Inspired by the Filipino dancing inmates from YouTube, Prison Dancer is about the walls that imprison us and the dreams that set us free.

The Sad and Cautionary Tale of Smackheaded Peter by Simon Glass features actors and York grads Bryan Demore (BFA Spec. Hons. ’10) and Richard Stewart (MFA ’03) and fourth-year theatre student Tina Fance. The production showcases the work of theatre designer and former theatre student Brandon Kleiman on set and costumes, and theatre grad Andrew Smith (BFA Spec. Hons. ’08) on lighting, and is directed by Heather Davies (MFA ’09) with assistant director Andrew McNaughton (BA Spec. Hons. ’09). Fourth-year theatre student Jennifer Head is the production’s stage manager.

The Sad and Cautionary Tale of Smackheaded Peter offers the cheeky fable of Peter, born in an addict’s hovel, whose quest is to free the poor, creating peace on Earth with low-cost heroin. “Why not, if all other attempts have tried and failed, why cannot smack have a go?” The play opens on Aug. 6 at 10:30pm at Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, 16 Ryerson Ave.

Ticket information and pricing for all of the SummerWorks productions is available on the SummerWorks Web site or by calling the main box office at 416-504-7529.